80 Days After Opening a Real Estate Brokerage
I interview Barry Aldridge who is the Broker / Owner of Realty ONE Group Select in Mooresville, NC. Barry opened his office 80 days ago, and we talk about the thought process of opening a real estate office, and how it has grown over the last 80 days.
R: Alright, Facebook Live, 1 o’clock, all things real estate brokerage.
R: So we’ve got a great interview with Barry Aldridge, and he is the owner and broker of Realty ONE Group Select in North Carolina. It’s only 80 days since his office has been open. So this is kind of fun and interesting to learn. I’m excited about it, because I want to hear about his thought process of why he wanted to start an office, and how we went about doing that, and also what the last 80 days have been like. So we’re going to get started here. I really appreciate you joining me. If you’re not able to watch all the interview, I’ll have it here. You can watch the replay or catch parts that you want to catch. Go ahead and make any comments on this post if you watch it live or afterwards, and then Barry or myself will answer them. And you’re more than welcome to reach out to me or Barry. So let’s get the show going for you here as I get it all up and operational.
R: Barry, thanks for joining me today.
B: Thanks for having me, Robb.
R: I really appreciate it. Hey, where are you at right now? I love that ONE in the background.
B: Well, I’m actually in my office. I’m actually sitting where agents or clients would sit in my office, and this is one of our feature walls behind me, that was given to me by my wife when we did our sign stuff, she surprised me with a nice little bonus. It was kind of nice.
R: Well it looks really, really sharp. And is that tile behind the ONE? What is that?
B: No, that’s actually a faux reclaimed wood.
R: Ooh, nice.
B: Yeah, and we have one similar to it in our entrance. It’s kind of one of our features that we bring a level of sophistication, but kind of design element that really attracts the brand, of course.
R: Oh, it’s sharp, it’s sharp. So Barry, tell me a little bit about this. I know you opened your brokerage just 80 days ago, but what did you do before real estate? Or have you always been in real estate?
B: No, I’ve been in real estate awhile. Prior to real estate, I was actually in the nursery and tree business. We grew Christmas trees in the mountains of North Carolina, and that evolved into a wholesale tree business, and we ship to about 25 different states across the country. Did that for about 21 years.
R: Wow, 21 years.
R: And then how did you get into real estate?
B: Well, real estate was kind of a natural progression for me. My mother was a very successful—probably one of the most successful—agents in our area at the time. I grew up in the real estate business, going on listing appointments, and showing houses with my mom when I was little, and it just seemed like I knew real estate from the very beginning. I kind of rebelled against real estate for awhile, and like I said, went down a different path and grew this one business. When we sold that business, I looked to move back into North Carolina and my mom and stepfather, who owned a brokerage at that time, asked me if I wanted to come on board, and I had already been licensed, so I said, sure, let me try it. And, I don’t know, the rest is kind of history. I realized that I probably should’ve been doing it a long time ago. I love real estate.
R: Oh, that’s terrific. What year was that when you started real estate?
B: 2003. So I’m almost at the 15 year mark in real estate now.
R: 15 year mark. Now, you were selling with your mom, perhaps her brokerage. Were those 15 years all with her, or was it some other companies?
B: No, I was only there a couple of years, then I branched out on my own and I experimented with a lot of different companies. Of course, I went the Remax route, I went with Keller Williams, I went with a couple boutique companies—independent, smaller companies—and for just a short period of time, I had a small agency that was just myself and one other person.
B: So that was the extent of it. So I’ve kind of seen all different facets of it.
R: You have. You’ve got a wealth of knowledge there. What was your thought process on opening up your own office?
B: It’s not so much that I wanted to open my own office. It was more that I just wanted to keep more of the commission that I’d earned. When I looked at all of these companies out there that were taking 30, 40, 50% of your commission, unless they’re giving you something, which most of them didn’t, in the way of leads or something like that, after a period of time when you become a successful real estate person, and most of the income that you generate, you generate yourself, you start begrudging giving that extra check to Mr. Broker. So I was just out there trying to find a company where I could keep more of my money, and this was a long search. I’ve been looking for this for a long time.
R: Oh, really? So you were exploring a place to sell for? Another brokerage? And you couldn’t find it. And you happened to find Realty ONE Group.
B: Yeah, I was approached with the Realty ONE group concept by a friend you and I both know, and he told me about the company. I was very excited. It seemed like it kind of had everything, because it was 100% commission model, it was low monthly fees, it was transaction-based, so I mean, minimal… $400, $250, $450 kind of transaction fees. So I was like, I like this. But the piece I loved the most about it was it was different than all the others when I talk about 100% brokerages because it actually had offices. Whether you need it or not, the office is nice, because you know there’s support staff there, and if you can ever take advantage of that, it’s always there for you. With a lot of the virtual firms in the 100% model, they don’t have offices, Or if they do have offices, they don’t have technology or adequate staff or broker support to make the agent feel like they have somebody who has there back. So Realty ONE Group convinced me very early on that they were agent-centric, and everything they have is geared towards the agent. And so I really liked that, and so I told the guy, okay, that’s awesome. Just tell me one comes in this area and I’ll be the first agent to sign. And he laughed, and said, no, guy, you’re it. And I said, alright, well, I don’t know about that, but I’ll try. So, here we are, seven months later and I really don’t regret it. I love it actually.
R: Wow, that’s a great, great story. Now, you’re in North Carolina. Mooresville? Is that correct? Tell me a little bit about Mooresville. I’ve never been to Carolina.
B: Oh, well you’ve gotta come. I’ll have you over. Alright, so Mooresville is about 30 minutes north of Charlotte. We’re still part of the greater Charlotte area, but we’re a little north, so commuters that go to work in Charlotte and different things, obviously this would be what I’d call a commuter city. Mooresville is also on Lake Norman. Lake Norman is the largest privately owned lake home market in America. It’s got 520 miles of shoreline.
R: Wait, wait, you said 520 miles of shoreline?
B: Yeah, it does a lot of this.
R: There’s got to be thousands of houses.
B: Yeah, there is. Just the market in that Lake Norman lakeshore market is 850 million. Just the lakeshore. So yeah, it’s huge, and of course Mooresville also is known as Race City, USA. That’s actually its affectionate nickname, and that’s because a large majority of the NASCAR teams and the support companies and all of the different engine builders and different things like that, have their offices, team headquarters, and everything located here in Mooresville. So it’s rare that you meet somebody who is not affected by the racing community is some way or fashion. Somebody they know works for a race team, etc. So it’s kind of cool.
R: That is really cool. So you’ve probably seen some famous race drivers.
B: Yeah, I actually hung out on a boat last week with one. It was actually, we had a charity event and I got to meet one. He’s actually a very nice guy and yeah, it’s very cool to be in this area.
R: Oh, interesting. Who was that guy? Do you remember his name?
B: Oh yeah, it was Greg Biffle. He was a driver for Roush Fenway for years.
R: Oh, interesting.
B: Yeah, super nice guy.
R: How fun is that. Okay, Charlotte. Charlotte also makes up your market area? The city of Charlotte?
B: Yeah, Charlotte’s part of our market area. It absolutely is.
R: Oh, wonderful. Now, is it two MLSes or one MLS?
B: No, we have on MLS now, and actually Charlotte has merged with the mountain MLS, which covers the Asheville-Henderson area as well, which is about 60-80 miles west. So they cover pretty much everything from Charlotte all the way to the mountains in Asheville now.
R: And how many agents in that MLS?
B: Oh man, I think, and don’t hold me to this, but I’m pretty sure at last count there were approximately 17-18,000 agents in our MLS.
R: Wow, 17,000. So as far as your office, do you have agents and take care of agents in the Charlotte area?
B: Oh yeah, we take care of agents in pretty much all the areas. Obviously here in the Lake Norman area, but we also have agents all the way down to Rock Hill, South Carolina, Centre City, Charlotte, Concord. We kind of have the entire Charlotte market as our, I don’t want to say hunting grounds, but you know what I mean, our work area.
R: Absolutely. Okay, now you opened your office January 1st, is that correct?
B: I did. 1 January.
R: January 1. Now what was your prep time as far as opening that office? Was it over a 30-day, 90-day, 6-month process? When you first decided, hey, I’m going to own a Realty ONE franchise.
B: From start to finish, the beginning of the process, when I was approached with the idea, it’s probably been… we’re pushing nine months.
R: Nine months.
B: Yeah, it was about six months before we actually became official and went out to corporate headquarters and signed the documents and actually became a Realty ONE Group brokerage. And again, our official opening was January 1st. But yeah, we started this process back in late May, and it really took off toward the fall. There’s a lot of things that go into building a brokerage, obviously, and securing the location and just getting all the pieces in place has been somewhat challenging, but it’s been kind of a fun challenge.
R: Oh, absolutely. Now how much square feet do you have there for your office?
B: We’ve got about 3,300 square feet with about eight or nine offices and a large conference area, reception area, cafe, and all the things. Like I said, it’s not so much about agents coming here all the time, but it’s nice to know they can come here if they want to. We have offices that people can rent out if they have a team or if they’re a more producing office and they need support staff or anything. So we have that available to them as well.
R: Oh, that’s nice. Now your wife is also here with you in the ownership, Dawn, and what is Dawn’s role in your brokerage?
B: Dawn’s role in the brokerage is that she is—she’s pretty much everything, actually. I get to do the interviews and I get to meet the agents and do the recruiting to some extent, but my wife actually stands behind me and helps to make sure all the compliance and the paperwork, the communication networks that we have between our agents and corporate and all of our clients and everything, runs very smoothly. She’s in charge of the onboarding packet that we do with every agent. She’s in charge of all of the compliance. She is the detail person, and I’m the shiny object. Let’s just put it that way.
R: Oh, that’s true. That’s very important in a brokerage.
B: Yes sir, absolutely. I couldn’t do it without her.
R: And how many agents do you currently have with your office?
B: As of today, we have ten agents. We’ve got four more in the pipeline, and four or five more that have promised to sign. So we’re looking to have 20 in the next two weeks to three. So we’re way ahead of schedule right now. We’re very excited.
R: Wow, you’re doing terrific, I’ll tell you what. That’s fast growth. That’s tremendous. Now, what do you offer as a broker owner for the agents? It sounds like there’s some broker support that you offer.
B: Yeah. Obviously every agent comes to you from a different place. For some, it’s all about the money. They will simply make more money here than they will almost anywhere else. You and I both know it’s proven that there’s no other company out there that will compete with it when you add that piece of the puzzle with the broker support and the technology and having an actual office, not these virtual things with the cartoon characters or anything else. It’s literally brick and mortar offices with the support staff behind the agent 100%. We guarantee, as far as our brokerage, which I think has been a really big selling point for us, we guarantee 100% that any agent, no matter when they call, what they need, 24/7, 365, we guarantee them that we will respond within 30 minutes. Now, I’m not going to say we’re going to fix your problem in 30 minutes, but we’re going to at least get back to you within 30 minutes, which is more than I can say for most agencies that I’ve ever been apart of. We commit ourselves so much to that, that our support staff, which will be the brokers, the admin—at this point obviously it’s just Dawn and I—we have a separate phone line that only the agents have that they can reach us on at any point. They can all me any time they want, and they know that they’re the only people that have that number. So that rings a bell with a lot of people. Again, everybody comes from a different place.
R: Boy, I tell you what, that’s remarkable. That’s good to know as an agent. Now when you talk about the comp plan, the 100% comp plan, can you share with me what that looks like? What an agent would pay or receive, let’s say, on a $10,000 agent commission.
B: Alright, let’s do it simply. Let’s say somebody sells a $300,000 house.
B: Okay. With the normal brokerage—and let’s assume you make a 3% commission. Obviously there are different levels and it’s all negotiable, but let’s assume a 3% commission. That is $9,000.
B: So the gross commission is $9,000. With other agencies, you’ll pay anywhere from 30%, 40%, some as high as 50%. With us, on that $9,000 commission on the $300,000 offer, we charge you $450.
B: Yeah, so they make—
R: Isn’t that nice.
B: Yeah, they make $8,550 of their own commission right back in their pocket. Now, obviously there are a couple of little fees. We charge a small monthly fee because of all the technology that we offer, and we also charge for E&O, but that’s it.
R: That’s not bad.
B: Beyond that, that’s it. That’s all the agent has to pay. So they’re out of pocket every year—I have not had a single agent, not one, when it’s all said and done, that didn’t make more money by coming here.
R: Wow. And you see a lot of companies out there that take 30%, so that would’ve been $3,600 they would’ve taken.
R: And what was that amount again? Because that’s a remarkable amount.
B: Yeah, $450.
R: $450, that’s great.
B: Yeah, and then again, we only have four levels. Personally, I know every market will be different. We only have four levels of the transaction fees. So it’s very, very simple. For us, we wanted it to be as simple as possible, as transparent as possible so that the agent would always know that the majority of their commission is going in their pocket.
R: Right, and keeping it simple like that, there’s no commission surprises for the agents.
B: Yeah, no commission surprises whatsoever, and obviously this is all spelled out for them upfront. When they sign their ICA, they see all of the information. There are no October surprises.
R: Okay, that’s good, because I hear that quite a bit from agents with other brokerages out there over the years.
B: Oh yeah. Absolutely.
R: So that comp model is really nice, and the broker support, that’s important. I like hearing that because it just seems like you really care about the agents.
B: Well, I do. It really is the only reason I opened this brokerage, because I could make a lot more money just selling real estate, I’m going to be honest with you. I’m at a point in my life where I sold a lot of real estate and was becoming extremely successful. I had no issues with selling real estate. But where my true talent lies was in working with other agents. So this has given me an opportunity to encourage and build agents so I can see them succeed, and it makes me kind of like a proud father. I enjoy watching my agents and their successes. It makes me very happy.
R: Yeah, that’s wonderful. Now after you meet with them, if I’m in your city, if I’m in Charlotte or Mooresville, I’m going to reach out to you. If I’m in one of those legacy type programs and I like the broker support, I love the commission, but what type of technology tools do you offer?
B: I think that’s the shiny object that we all love about this business, is we have so many technology tools available to us and they’re adding stuff all the time. Tt seems like every week they come out with another new gadget or tool for us to work with. We obviously have SkySlope, our paperless, cloud-based transaction system, which saves the agents a ton of time and having to worry about all the paperwork. They basically upload the stuff, they designate it, we put it through compliance, and the checks come faster. All of their information is online and it’s very easily accessible. So that’s a huge time saver. We have the Moxi suite of services right now, which gives us these beautiful IDX-compatible searchable websites that everybody can customize. These are really, really nice. We have our own branded mobile app on these phones, which is fantastic. You can give to people, you can use it on your marketing. Those are super cool. Also, again, fully IDX, it’s searchable, it’s all compatible. We have Videolicious, which in my opinion is probably one of our best tools that we have. It creates these amazing little short presentations and videos that we can create and market properties and win listing appointments. So it’s just a drop in the bucket. There are so many things. It’s amazing, actually.
R: Wow. Now do the agents pay for this or is this included?
B: No, it’s all included. It’s all part of the package that they get. We try to make it as transparent as possible, but they don’t pay any extra for any of this. It’s all part of it. It’s part of the genius—Kuba, when he started this company, is creating this backend for the agents that gets them all of these tools, which again, you and I know, that’s very important leading into where we are today with where the consumer is and where real estate is.
R: Absolutely. Well, Barry, I really appreciate. We’re just about out of time, but where do you thin the real estate market is going? Just briefly, give me an idea of where you see it going.
B: I see, obviously the consumer is incredibly smart now. They have access to so much more information than they used to. I think it’s our job as agents to navigate through all of this information and make sense of it to these folks, because there’s a lot of misinformation out there, too. So we have to be that concierge for our clients and less of a sales person anymore. We literally need to make sure that we are a facilitator and a concierge and a negotiator, and hold their hands through this process. I think as long as there’s real estate, there will be a need for real estate agents, and as long as there’s a need for real estate agents, Realty ONE Group is the place.
R: It sounds like it. I’ll tell you what, if I was in North Carolina, I would be in your office, for sure. I just love your personality, I love your dedication for agents. That’s a hot point for me, and you just seem like a wonderful broker to have an opportunity to be in that office. So Barry, I really thank you for your time, and if someone wants to reach out to you, what is your phone number?
B: If they want to reach out to me, they can reach me at (704) 437-9113. They can reach out to me, we’ll do a confidential interview, we’ll do coffee, or we can meet at the office. I understand confidentiality, but I would love to show it to more agents.
R: Wonderful. Well thanks, Barry, you have a great day. I appreciate your time, and we’ll talk to you soon, I’m sure.
B: Thank you, best of luck. Thanks, Robb.
R: Thank you.
I hope you enjoy the interview, Robb Spearman, Regional Director of the Heartland Region.
Call or Text: 515-202-2974
March 20, 2018